Cash Sent to Gaza Banks, PA Employees Receive Paychecks

PA officials in Ramallah admitt there is no guarantee that some of the money did not find its way to Hamas.

NIS 100 million in cash was transferred to Gaza banks Thursday to enable salaries to be paid to Palestinian Authority employees in the Strip. But PA officials in Ramallah admitted there is no guarantee that some of the money did not find its way to Hamas.

The delivery was approved by Israel at the PA's request. Hamas, which controls the Strip, provided security for the armored trucks carrying the money. And although Thursday was an official PA holiday, the PA ordered Gaza's banks to open so that some 70,000 employees could collect their November salaries.

But in private conversations, senior PA officials - including PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad - admitted that there is no way to check whether the entire sum really reached the employees for whom it was earmarked. Some of the banks' branch managers and tellers cooperate with Hamas, they explained, and could easily have diverted some of the money to the organization.

The Bank of Israel said the delivery was approved in part to prevent a collapse of Gaza's economy, which is largely shekel-based. The Strip has recently been suffering a severe currency shortage because so many existing shekel bills have become too tattered and worn to serve as legal tender. The bank noted that part of its job is maintaining the physical quality of shekel coins and bills, and therefore must periodically exchange old bills for new ones.

Demonstrators demanding the release of captive soldier Gilat Shalit unsuccessfully tried to prevent the delivery, saying it should at least have been conditioned on news of the kidnapped soldier. The activists had also considered petitioning the High Court against the delivery, but did not learn of it in time to do so.